I’m voting “YES!”
It turns out that the Michigan USA Mission Center and the First Presidency both submitted very similar Resolutions for consideration at World Conference. They can be read here:
“A-3 Amendment to Community of Christ Bylaws—Electronic Meetings” from the First Presidency
Insert a new section in Article IV after Section 5. If adopted will read:
Section 6. Electronic Conferences and Meetings. All organized units of Community of Christ may hold conferences and meetings electronically if such is determined to be the most suitable method within a given context. Electronic conferences and meetings must be approved by appropriate next-level supervisory administrators and must be in harmony with requirements unique to each body (i.e., World Conference, Mission Center Conference, Congregation Conference, etc.) detailed elsewhere in these bylaws.
Rationale: While such meetings were allowable previously if emergency circumstances prohibited in-person meetings, a variety of developments have made electronic meetings more available and advisable in many contexts. These developments include expanded forms of electronic communication, the geographical size of many jurisdictional units which make travel to in-person gatherings difficult, governmental travel restrictions in some jurisdictions, difficulty for some individuals to travel even short distances to attend, and consideration of the impact of travel on the environment.
“A-3a Resolution to Amend the Bylaws to Authorize Conducting Conferences by Electronic Means” from the Michigan USA Mission Center
Whereas, Community of Christ Bylaws Article VIII—Parliamentary Authority states “the current edition of Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised shall govern all conferences of the church in all cases where they are culturally appropriate and where they are not in conflict with these rules of order or any special rules of order adopted by the appropriate conference;” and
Whereas, Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised 12th Edition states, “Except as authorized in the bylaws, the business of an organization or board can be validly transacted only at a regular or properly called meeting—that is, as defined in 8:2(1), a single official gathering in one room or area—of the assembly of its members at which a quorum is present;” [RONR (12th ed.) 9:30]; and
Whereas, The First Presidency provided guidance on July 15, 2020, during the COVID-19 global pandemic for conducting online mission center and congregational conferences referencing bylaw provisions that allow apostles and mission center presidents to recommend procedures for conducting church business in emergency situations; and
Whereas, Authorizing electronic meetings for all conferences would provide options for conducting church business in ways that could increase participation, decrease costs, limit negative impacts on the environment, and provide other benefits; therefore, be it
Resolved, that the Community of Christ Bylaws be amended by adding the sentence “Conferences may be conducted with some or all members communicating through electronic means.” to Article IV—Conferences, Section 1. Conferences.
Proviso: To avoid duplication of efforts, printing of additional materials, and confusion for World Conference delegates, the mission center president is empowered to withdraw submission of this resolution for the next World Conference if a proposal for Community of Christ bylaw amendment similar to this resolution to allow for electronic participation in church conferences is submitted by the First Presidency or other World Church team or quorum.
Community of Christ Bylaws—Article IV—Conferences
Section 1. Conferences. Conferences are the legislative bodies of the church. They may be regular or special. Generally, regular conferences shall be held annually or otherwise as agreed upon by those who constitute their membership. They may represent the church at large, a mission center, or a congregation. They are subject to the jurisdiction of the First Presidency, members of the Council of Twelve Apostles, and appropriate mission center presidents or congregational pastors. Conferences may be conducted with some or all members communicating through electronic means.
It is important to note that the Provisio in A-3a essentially means that A-3 has priority. That being said, I think that A-3a makes an important point: Authorizing electronic meetings for all conferences would provide options for conducting church business in ways that could:
- Decrease Costs
- Increase participation
- Limit negative impacts on the environment
I would like to examine each of this a bit.
I did a bit of research regarding how much simply flying to Independence would cost (in USD) for one person from a couple of different places around the world.
- Boise, Idaho, USA: $410-$700
- Toronto, Ontario, Canada: $550-$750
- Tahiti, French Polynesia: $1,000-$5,000
- Lusaka, Zambia: $1,600-$6,000
This also doesn’t take into account the cost of a visa, traveling to the nearest international airport, and lodging in Independence for Conference. By having exclusively in-person conferences we are creating a class system without our own walls. Only individuals and congregations with enough surplus monetary resources are able to take part in our holy legislative process, while those who don’t have access to these resources are not given an opportunity to do the same.
Since 1988 with World Conference Resolution #1202 the church has recognized this income inequality that exists around the world and has worked to offset that through the World Church International Delegate Travel Fund, which finances travel from around the world for the delegates to attend Conference. Since 2010 we have put forward over $100,000 just in getting delegates to Missouri.
However, it seems as if the church struggled to follow up to this commitment because it had to be reiterated again in 1998 with WCR #1257. Despite this, there is still a clear attendance discrepancy which can be seen with the attendance which was taken at the 2019 World Conference. Note here that the North/Central America is broken up into 4 parts and represents 74% of the delegates.
The church realized that financing international travel for World Conference wasn’t sustainable back in 2007 with WCR #1288, and was cited as one of the chief reasons why we moved Conference to every 3 years instead of every 2.
By simply eliminating the need to be physically present in Independence, Missouri, USA in order take part in the legislative process we will reduce the expenditures for World Conference. In fact, we may even be able to revert back to having Conference every other year in order to speed up our legislative process. Additionally, by making Conference accessible online attendance will likely skyrocket from around the world. Lastly, there will be FAR fewer people flying to Independence, which in turn will mitigate the environmental cost of burning fossil fuels.
This resolution is a no-brainer. The fact that both a Mission Center and the First Presidency passed a resolution like this shows that there is near-universal support for such a resolution, including on my part.